Tuesday 23 January 2018

Tough defeat to take for Model men

Wexford come agonisingly close to snatching draw with Kildare in dire affair at Croker

Dean Goodison

Fergal Conway of Kildare in action against Daithí Waters, left, and Brian Malone of Wexford in the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship
Fergal Conway of Kildare in action against Daithí Waters, left, and Brian Malone of Wexford in the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship
Ollie Lyons of Kildare in action against Wexford's Kevin O'Grady
Kildare's Fergal Conway tries to dodge Wexford's Donal Shanley, left, and Colm Kehoe

Wexford came agonisingly close to forcing a replay, only to fall short by the narrowest of margins against Kidare in the Leinster Senior Football Championship at Croke Park on Saturday evening last.

Kildare 0-09 Wexford 0-08

David Power's side trailed 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time but responded superbly to pull level in the 49th minute. The Lilywhites moved two clear again only for Donal Shanley to cut the deficit in half. Wexford had several chances to level it, the best a Ciaran Lyng free in added time that tailed wide.

Wexford came into the game as five-point underdogs but there was a quiet confidence in the camp that an upset was potentially on the cards. They certainly played like a team with nothing to fear even if a lot of what they tried to do didn't work out as drawn up.

Kildare dragged the life out of the tie with their double sweeper, stationed thirty meters from goal, much like the doors on an aircraft; one left and one right. In the first half Wexford chose to attack this with Ciaran Lyng and John Tubritt inside, darting to the wings to gain possession from balls to the corner.

As three points in 35 minutes suggests, it didn't work. The inside forwards struggled to win their one-on-one battles and when the double-teams arrived success was even more fleeting. The slow-burner stuff didn't work either with Kildare adept at closing off the attacking channels when necessary.

Things changed after the break. Power quickly moved another attacker outside that defensive wall and the added body in the middle third saw Wexford change the momentum. The Slaneysiders played the better football in the second half, no question about that, but their opponents were a little more composed in possession and that eventually told in the final ten minutes.

Defensively Wexford will be delighted by this showing. Jim Rossiter led from the back and was superb, Simon Donohoe continues to step up to the plate but all six starting defenders, and the lads that came on, should be satisfied with a game well played.

Kildare have been more about the hype than the success in recent years but on this show they wont have either this summer. A coin-toss game against the winners of Westmeath and Offaly may see them into the Leinster final but Dublin would annihilate them playing this system.

The game started with John Tubritt sneaking in on the right of goal and flashing over the bar. It would turn out to be his sides best goal chances of the game but for a player without championship experience, trying to get himself into the match, it was a good point to take.

Kildare kicked a couple of wides in the opening five minutes as they took time to settle. When Tubritt was fouled outside the '45, Donal Shanley clattered the right upright with his first free of the day.

Yet, when Kevin Feely was fouled in the seventh minute, Neil Flynn didn't make any mistake from forty metres out. The same two were involved seconds later when Feely fed Flynn and he kicked over from in front of the posts.

After another Kildare wide, this time from Alan Smith, Wexford broke and Kevin O'Grady won a free in midfield, a foul that saw Feely go into the referees notebook. Dathai Waters sliced a shot well wide before Kildare broke up field and went 0-3 to 0-1 up when Morgan O'Flaherty tapped over from an Eoghan O'Flaherty pass.

Brian Malone broke up the left, fed Ciaran Lyng but he sliced wide from a tight angle. Then Shanley dragged a 35 metres shot wide. Kildare ended the opening quarter with their fourth point, a nice finish after a powerful run by Ollie Lyons.

A foul on P.J. Banville 37 metres from goal saw Shanley kick his first point of the afternoon from right of the goal. Yet, Kildare added a fifth point in the 23rd minute when Alan Smith registered his first score.

Neil Flynn got away with a clear push in the back on Simon Donohoe to kick the Lilywhites sixth point in the 25th minute from left of the posts. That score came just after John Tubritt kicked a wide and before Kevin O'Grady missed the target from 35 metres.

Wexford notched their best worked point of the half in the 30th minute. Banville won a free near the '65, Colm Kehoe took it quickly to Waters, he gave it back to the Cloughbawn man, who kicked a super point into the Hill 16 end of Headquarters.

When Michael Furlong was forced off injured, Kieran Butler was introduced. A great Ben Brosnan run ended with a poor ball to the left wing when Lyng was breaking inside in the 33rd minute. Kildare ended the half with another score, coming from the boot of Smith after he armed off the challenge of Joey Wadding.

Trailing 0-7 to 0-3 at the interval, David Power introduced Shane Roche for Fethard attacker Tubritt. Immediately the Geraldine O'Hanrahans attacker had a pot-shot from thirty metres out but it flew wide of the posts.

Malone slipped the ball to O'Grady driving at the Kildare defence, he committed three defenders and was fouled thirteen metres from goal. Shanley had the easy task of kicking the resulting dead-ball to narrow the deficit to three.

Ryan Houlihan fired wide in the 39th minute in a rare foray forward for Kildare. O'Grady, rejuvenated after the interval, was fouled 44 metres from goal but Shanley's effort, dead-straight at the black spot, dropped just under the crossbar and Mark Donnellan caught and cleared.

Donohoe fed Brosnan in the 44th minute, again he committed defenders and won his side a free. Shanley stepped up to the plate, twenty-five metres to the right of the posts and nailed the kick to make it 0-7 to 0-5.

However, the St Fintan's man missed an easier one two minutes later when Colm Kehoe was felled just left of the posts, 25 metres from goal. Kehoe burst through again in the 47th minute, offloaded to Shane Roche who kicked a fine score to narrow the gap to just one.

Tails up, O'Grady darted inside a Kildare tackle on the '45 and kicked an excellent score off his left foot to bring Wexford level for the first time since the eighth minute. Cian O'Donoghue then flared a good chance wide for a rattled Lilywhites outfit.

Substitute Adrian Flynn took a pass from Ciaran Lyng and fired a difficult attempt wide left of Donnellan's sticks. Under pressure, Eoghan O'Flaherty's pass found Eamonn Callaghan and he floated his side back in front (0-8 to 0-7).

Moments after Shane Roche dragged a shot wide, Cian O'Donoghue was next to hit the target to give Kildare a two-point advantage after 57 minutes. After that score the victors didn't have a telling shot on target as Wexford dominated.

After a break in play, Shanley cut the deficit to 0-9 to 0-8 after O'Donoghue fouled Kieran Butler 25 metres from goal. Dathai Waters kicked a poor wide in the 66th minute as Wexford tried to work the space for a clear shot.

Kildare had a spell of possession that lasted upwards of a minute but soon Wexford were back on the attack.

Shanley won a free two minutes into added time, about fifteen metres in from the touchline on the right and about seventeen from the endline.

After a fussy linsman had his say about the spotting of the free, Ciaran Lyng took the ball off the St Fintan's clubman who was preparing to kick. Captaincy and experience trumps youths and all that but it turned out to be a poor decision.

Lyng, who certainly didn't have his most effective game in a Wexford jersey, kicked left-footed, it started just inside the right hand post and curled well wide right, given its distance from goal. It would turn out to be his sides best chance to draw level.

Adrian Flynn went for broke with a cross-field ball in the third minute of the five that were added but it skidded long and out of play. He broke again, found Waters a minute later but the St Martin's man committed a turnover.

Wexford's last chance came when O'Grady found Lyng deep in the left corner, he chose to shoot under intense pressure, it was blocked and the Slaneysiders never got close to finding the point they needed again.

David Power's side must now look ahead to the qualifiers. Wexford will play in Round 1B of the All Ireland series and that tie is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 25, against an opponent yet to be determined.

Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Ollie Lyons (0-1); Eoin Doyle (capt), Fergal Conway, Emmet Bolton; Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick; Morgan O'Flaherty (0-1), Eoghan O'Flaherty, Ryan Houlihan; Paul Cribbin, Alan Smith (0-2), Neil Flynn (0-3, 1 free). Subs. - Adam Tyrell for Cribbin (47), Cian O'Donoghue (0-1) for Bolton (50), Eamonn Callaghan (0-1) for Smith (54), Padraig O'Neill for E. O'Flaherty (59), Fionn Dowling for Feely, inj (61), Kevin Murnaghan for M. O'Flaherty (60+2).

Wexford: Anthony Masterson; Simon Donohoe, Joey Wadding, Jim Rossiter; Eoghan Nolan, Michael Furlong, Brian Malone; Colm Kehoe (0-1), Dathai Waters; Kevin O'Grady (0-1), P.J. Banville, Ben Brosnan; Donal Shanley (0-4 frees), Ciaran Lyng (capt), John Tubritt (0-1). Subs. - Adrian Flynn for Shanley, temp (16-19), Shane Roche (0-1) for Tubritt (36), Adrian Flynn for Banville (47), Rob Tierney for Kehoe (57), Syl Byrne for Malone, inj (64).

Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare)

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